Whether it’s machines running 24/7 on a factory floor, excavators being operated in a quarry, or trains transporting passengers and cargo along the tracks, vibration is all around us. While for many pieces of critical machinery, vibration is inescapable – and, indeed, necessary – it is a variable which must be carefully managed to keep operations running smoothly and avoid vibration-related downtime. Here, Fabian Selent of Trelleborg’s antivibration solutions operation explores the impact of vibration on critical machinery – and how to avoid costly downtime and maintenance.
Modern machinery is smart. In the age of digitization and Industry 4.0, almost every piece of industrial equipment can be connected via the Internet of Things, enabling them to work in tandem, be monitored for key variables like energy efficiency, and even predict when maintenance is required. While all these things are possible in modern industry, one variable – vibration – stands out as being easy to dismiss when it comes to keeping machines working optimally.
With vibration the norm in many environments, it’s easy to overlook critical components with increased levels of vibration. But with increased vibration comes the risk of component degradation or failure and, subsequently, unforeseen downtime. This impact isn’t only limited to vibrating equipment either; nearby components can also feel the effects. In practice, that doesn’t just result in under-performing equipment, but can actually bring production to a halt, cause significant delays and disruption, or stop the wheels of industry turning until the effects of abnormal vibration have been resolved.
The impact of vibration
When it comes to vibration, there are numerous potential causes of increased excitations. Changes in the operating environment, overloading, lengthened service and aging effects can all cause excessive vibration. Even simple characteristics of wear and tear, such as imbalance, misalignment or lose parts can all increase vibration and subsequently, levels of fatigue, breakdown and failure of critical machinery. If ignored, the consequences are only magnified, causing greater levels of damage to equipment. In essence, vibration shortens the service life of critical components and, in turn, pushes up costs – often unexpectedly and unpredictably.
On average, the cost of vibration-related downtime – which includes the cost of repairs, lost production and lost labor time – can run into thousands of euros per hour. In some industries, the impact of vibration extends even further. For operators of off-highway vehicles, for instance, excessive levels of vibration can have effects which last far beyond those of the machinery itself. Back pain, varicose veins and impairment of vision are just some of the prolonged effects of exposure to vibration for workers.
Cutting down on vibration
While the vibration of industrial machinery is a necessary characteristic, action can be taken to manage its levels for optimum performance, protecting workers and assets from the potentially harmful effects of exposure to excessive vibration.
Anti-vibration components are a critical starting point in this journey. Because of the variety of operating conditions of equipment across industries, selecting an anti-vibration mount takes careful consideration of several characteristics such as deflection, static loading and alignment of the specific equipment. As a result, specifying anti-vibration components from the outset – rather than allowing vibration-related problems to become apparent during operation – is an important step to enabling sustained performance and work safety.
With vibration being necessary to the operation of some equipment, anti-vibration components aren’t always designed to prevent movement. Instead, they actually facilitate it by isolating vibration and preventing it spreading, essentially protecting nearby assets and workers from its impact. As a result, incorporating anti-vibration mounts into equipment design from the outset means they can be appropriately integrated for maximum effectiveness. Factoring these critical components into the initial design phase also avoids the need for equipment to be modified further down the line, maximizing uptime and productivity while minimizing the potential for vibration-related downtime.
Just as vibration itself can be felt far beyond where it originates, so too can its effects. At Trelleborg, we work with equipment manufacturers to develop appropriate anti-vibration solutions which protect people and equipment against exposure to vibration.
Discover more at Anti-vibration industrial solutions